Friday, September 27, 2013

Don Jon is Both Incredibly Funny, and an Insightful Look at Modern Masculinity

Don Jon (4 out of 5 Stars)
Directed and Written by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Glenne Headly, and Tony Danza

Who is the modern don?  The original legend of the Spanish Don Juan states that this man devoted his life to seducing a variety of women; he also was saddled with the vices of the times like gambling, and violence.  As time has evolved "the don juan" type has of course changed with society.  This film is aptly named with a translation to Don Jon describing a modern day understanding of heteronormative masculinity within America.

Jon (Gordon-Levitt) states there are "only has a few things I care about in life, my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn."  Jon is a modern day Don Juan, but is built that way based on nurture from his family his mother Angela (Headly) and his father Jon Sr. (Danza), but mainly from society.  Jon is ladies man whose streak is that every weekend he beds a different girl, but even while bedding these different women he sneaks out of bed to view his greatest love porn.  Jon meets Barbara (Johansson) one night out at a club, and she rebuffs his straight o bed moves, this challenges Jon to think outside of the box, and change his style.

In his first feature film as a director/writer Gordon-Levitt does something great; he creates a genuinely funny film with an interesting point of view on modern masculinity.  Jon is selfish, but aren't we all to some extent.  As a society we have been groomed throughout the years especially throughout the 80s and with this "me me me" generation to put our own needs above those of others.  Jon views porn as the most satisfying sexual experience because he can lose himself within this world and feel satisfied at the end of the experience.  On the other hand after during his other real life sexual experience Jon is never fully satisfied because the women never fulfill every need like within the porn he watches.

The mass consumption of porn is jading young males today, and creating a false reality about sexuality, thus confusing the role of intimacy.  The statistics of porn distribution and usage are too varied to detail but the few I found interesting from the BYU Women's Services and Resources states that the US makes up 12 billion dollars of 57 billion dollar global porn industry.  The statistics also show that revenue is higher than that of ABC, NBC, and CBS combined, thus entertaining more people than the three basic cable networks, astonishing.  Statistics also show that the modern male consumes porn at alarmingly high rates.

Back to Jon, why does he watch this porn?  The film even comments on his good looks, and the fact that he has a girl friend through his night school classmate Esther (Moore).  There is never a true explanation of why, but the proof is in the pudding it's an escape, and contributes the mentality, and his own immaturity, and lack of understanding what it means to be truly intimate with a real person.  Esther's character while an annoyance to Jon at first helps him to explore himself more, and find more depth to him than just those basic values he lists at the beginning of the film.

Gordon-Levitt constructs a film which shows the shallow and simplistic nature of Jon's character through highlighting the basic routines of the characters day to day activity.  Lauren Zuckerman does a brilliant job editing the imagery of the porn, the day to day routines highlighting both mindset and the role with which these daily activities drive Jon's life.  As Jon learns more about himself, and explores things on a deeper level you see him outside of the normal world with which he lives, you see larger landscapes, different spaces; he is no longer merely just a slut who devours women and porn, but explores his friendships, the city with which he lives, and sees new things in his sister, who his played with brief hilarity by Brie Larson.

Gordon-Levitt does a great with this film, and I give him credit for taking on this film, and creating a deeper more meaningful film about self exploration.  Do not let my serious talk fool you either this film is truly funny, and the scripts shines making you laugh just as hard as you explore the psycho social actions of heterosexual male behavior.  

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